- Feb 16, 2009
[mod] all news and discussions about pakistan support for terrorist activities in india [/mod]
February 10, 2010
Authors: Jacob N. Shapiro, C. Christine Fair
Belfer Center Programs or Projects: International Security; Quarterly Journal: International Security
This policy brief is based on an article published in the Winter 2009/10 issue of International Security, "Understanding Support for Islamist Militancy in Pakistan."
The geopolitical reasons for the Pakistani state to tolerate militant groups such as the Afghan Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba are well known. Yet there is precious little evidence about why average Pakistanis tolerate and even support groups that do so much to harm their nation's interests and reputation, as well as the safety of their fellow citizens. Because militant groups cannot survive without some popular backing, understanding why Pakistanis support them is a significant national security challenge for Pakistan, the United States, and the international community.
U.S. and Western policymakers have focused on creating a broad range of initiatives based on the appealing, but ultimately untested, notion that better education and employment opportunities will lead Pakistan's population to stop supporting militant groups. Such policies may be desirable for many reasons, but there is little evidence that they will help to counter support for political violence. Indeed, they fail to account for the hard reality that Pakistanis support particular militant groups for specific political reasons.
Data from a recent national survey of urban Pakistanis challenge the four conventional wisdoms that continue to motivate policy initiatives designed to stem Pakistani support for militant groups. The first is that poverty is a root cause of support for militancy, or at least that poorer and less-educated individuals are more prone to militants' appeals. The second is that personal religiosity and support for sharia law are strongly correlated with support for Islamist militancy. The third is that support for political goals espoused by legal Islamist parties predicts support for militant organizations. The fourth is that those who support democracy in Pakistan-either in terms of supporting democratic processes such as voting or in terms of valuing core democratic principles-oppose Islamism and militancy.
The results of the national survey of urban Pakistanis suggest, however, that the four conventional wisdoms-upon which many of the United States' policies rest-are ill founded at best and misguided at worst. Below are the key findings of the survey.
Pakistanis' support for militant organizations is not correlated among different types of militant groups. In other words, just because an individual supports one kind of militant group does not mean that the same individual will support another. For example, a supporter of Lashkar-e-Taiba will not necessarily be a supporter of al-Qaida. Far from it, Pakistanis appear to distinguish among these groups rather well.
Popular prescriptions that Pakistanis will stop supporting militancy when they feel confident in their own economic prospects, or their country's, are not grounded in the data. Respondents who come from economically successful areas or who believe that Pakistan is doing well economically compared to India were more likely to support militant groups, not less.
Religiosity is a poor predictor of Pakistani support for militant organizations. A preference for more sharia law does not predict support for these groups. What matters most is dissatisfaction with sharia's current role in Pakistan. Pakistanis who want a greater role for sharia and those who want a lesser role for it are more supportive of Islamist militant groups than those satisfied with the status quo.
Similarly, identifying strongly as a Muslim does not predict support for Taliban militants fighting in Afghanistan or for al-Qaida. Although strongly identifying as a Muslim does predict support for militant groups operating in Kashmir, the relationship disappears when respondents' support for other groups is taken into account. Whatever the common factor driving support for different militant organizations operating in Pakistan is, it is not religion per se.
There is no discernible relationship between respondents' faith in democracy or support for core democratic rights and their disapproval of the Taliban or al-Qaida. The much-heralded call for greater democratization in Pakistan as a palliative for militancy may therefore be unfounded.
Implications for Policymakers
Three main implications follow from the analysis.
Current policies, such as those embodied in the Kerry-Lugar-Berman legislation, are formulated upon the premise that some groups of Pakistanis support "militancy" writ large. This is clearly wrong. Factors that help to explain support for one militant group generally do not do so for others. The implication is that policies that mitigate support for the Afghan Taliban may exacerbate or have no effect on support for groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba. Policymakers therefore need to prioritize the groups of interest and focus on policies to diminish support for the most important ones.
Second, overly simplistic notions linking broad-based social ills to support for militancy should not drive policy. Increasing access to education and supporting economic development in Pakistan are laudable goals, but it is a mistake to believe that achieving them will do much to reduce Pakistanis' support for violent militant groups. To reduce this support, policymakers must pay greater attention to supporters' political concerns and grievances. This is good news. Achieving meaningful improvements in Pakistan's socioeconomic development is a generations-long task, but politics can change much more quickly.
Third, policymakers and analysts need to keep in mind that studies relying on public opinion data do not address decisionmakers' preeminent concern-the supply of militant violence. Unfortunately, there is no solid research to support the notion that decreases in the support for militant groups will translate into a reduction in Islamist violence in the near term. This does not mean that surveys of Pakistanis' political views are unimportant. Far from it. Data on popular attitudes should be linked with data on violence to test whether decreasing support does, in fact, lead to lower levels of violence. Over the longer term, understanding the sources of support for specific militant groups may lead to policies that can deprive them of the popular support they require to bring in new recruits, attract financial backing, and maintain operational security.
Urban Pakistanis are relatively discerning when it comes to supporting militancy. They appear to support small militant organizations when those organizations use violence to achieve political goals the individual cares about, and when violence makes sense as a way to attain those goals given Pakistanis' understanding of the strategic environment. This is sensible. Small militant organizations such as al-Qaida or even the Pakistani Taliban have no real chance of taking over the Pakistani state. Therefore, support for militant groups is unlikely to be determined by big-picture issues such as the role of Islamic law in Pakistani governance, much less by al-Qaida's purported goal of reestablishing the Caliphate.
The international community's ability to influence Pakistanis' religious views and economic status is negligible. Much can be done, however, to address political factors that drive support for militancy, such as corruption, human rights abuses, lack of security, limited access to the rule of law, and long-standing geopolitical disputes. Attempts to reduce support for violent political groups should be focused where they belong-on politics.
Never mind the thousands of civilians dead, displaced, and dispossessed by militancy and its backlash. Never mind that a politician who was set to capture a significant percentage of votes was assassinated by a terrorist organisation based not in India, but on Pakistan’s own territory. Never mind that hundreds of armed soldiers and security guards have been kidnapped, beheaded, and blown up by groups claiming a hard-line Islamic ideology.
The idea of a “pro-Pakistan,” Taliban regime in Afghanistan makes us grin. A pro-India regime in Afghanistan makes us queasy. Sixty years on, Pakistan (still) has an India problem.
In Washington DC, an understanding of Pakistan’s regional strategy in Afghanistan is defined by what they call the country’s ‘national security calculus’ – in other words, ‘Pakistan’s India problem.’ The story goes as follows: the Pakistan Army fomented insurgency in the 1980s with the help of the CIA, mostly because it wanted to hedge its bets against a hostile India by having a favourable regime in Afghanistan. Simultaneously, it continued its campaign of using militants in Kashmir as low-level irritants against the Indian Army.
In recent years, intelligence agencies have found their network amongst militants to be disassembling. Meanwhile, army officials have been targeted by the same militants they once cultivated, and the Frontier Corps have faced high casualties. As a result, the strategy has “switched” from one of FOIN (fomenting insurgency) to one of all-out COIN (counter insurgency).
The Pakistan Army now realises that the Pakistani Taliban are part of the national security threat, which is why there has been a “paradigm shift,” in the words of strategic analyst Haider Mullick of the Joint Special Operations University in Florida. Mullick’s new book, Pakistan’s Security Paradox, provides insights into what has been the cornerstone of the Pakistan Army’s strategic outlook for the last 30 years.
The powers that be remain reluctant about owning up to the Pakistan Army’s dealings with militant groups. But assuming a FOIN strategy exists, what would it look like? Mullick describes FOIN in great detail: for the numerically weaker Pakistan Army, “friendly” militants in Kashmir provided “plausible desirability.” That is, they did not operate on domestic soil and therefore posed no immediate threat to the country. They were a cheap tool against the Indian forces in Kashmir and acted as a force multiplier. After all, says Mullick, the Indian Army had more guns pointed at militants than it did at the Pakistani force in Kashmir.
Of course, even while fostering militancy, the Pakistan Army simultaneously conducted its own brand of counter-insurgency. Secessionist movements from Bangladesh to Baluchistan have faced the full force of the army. The picture is complicated when, between 2002 and 2008, the army seemingly increased domestic COIN tactics even while refusing to go after those groups it had carefully cultivated over the years. It is only in recent weeks, with the capture and killing of several high-level militant figures, that the army has shown that it can have its cake and eat it too.
The question persists, though: why does the Pakistan Army single-handedly continue to define national security, despite the installation of a democratically elected government at the centre? If analysts such as Mullick are correct, then the army has outwitted fate – by creating a problem and then solving it. Secondly, such an argument claims that it is perfectly reasonable to expect Pakistan to have national security concerns against India and deal with them in any way it sees appropriate, while simultaneously fighting terrorists that have killed thousands of Pakistani civilians.
It doesn’t take a military strategist to understand that what has happened in the Pakistan Army’s calculus is not a “paradigm shift,” but a “selective readjustment.” India is still the number one enemy, and militants are still the best resource for the Pakistan Army to maintain its influence in the region.
Although Pakistanis do not like the US government telling us our army harbours militants, we are not ready to admit that, at some level, our national security concerns are driven entirely by the “Indian threat.” Some seek solace in the fantasy that perhaps India is behind the terrorist attacks on Pakistani soil. Many among the public are willing to believe that Islamic hard-liners in Waziristan and Punjab take orders from Hindu agents, rather than admit the obvious.
In any other country in the world, it makes perfect sense to deal strategically with an army, and diplomatically with a civilian government. The underlying assumption is that the civilian government defines a country’s overarching goals while the army deploys the best possible strategy to fulfil those goals. In Pakistan, the army has had the privilege of being able to define national security goals and see them to their end. The civilian government, meanwhile, particularly in recent decades, has taken cues from the army and not the other way around.
Today, Washington puzzles over why the Pakistan Army is successfully “clearing” swathes of militant territory, but has not been able to “hold” it. The answer, any analyst will tell you, is that there is a complete lack of engagement of political parties when it comes to military strategy: they don’t understand it and are therefore justifiably left out of decision-making processes on the issue.
America would do well to realise that a long-term settlement of the tribal regions must involve political parties such as the Awami National Party and other vote-seeking, representative groups. Far more crucially, this is an excellent time for us to realise that there is something inherently dangerous and self-destructive about leaving the process of defining a nation’s goal to its brute force.
We in Pakistan like to think that as long as our army is strong, no external force can touch us. This is absurd logic for people whose house is on fire. Part of the army’s strength as the country’s “most efficient and stable institution” derives from our blinkered faith in, and support for, its policies, regardless of how disastrous they are for the country in the long run. Consequently, neither the Pakistan Army, nor the decision makers in Washington want to seriously engage with politicians.
Allowing the army to make decisions on our behalf is a comfortable way out of having to make hard decisions about the country's ideology and national security. For instance, it is time we asked why India continues to be our biggest national security threat?
The fact is, engagement with politicians is the only long-term solution to Pakistan’s security problems. Political parties need to be given the encouragement and support they need to define national security goals. And they certainly need to be at the dead centre of any solution in the tribal areas. Anything else is a stop-gap measure.
Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT), the Army of the Righteous, has evolved from being a government-sponsored Pakistani jihadi group dedicated to an insurgency in Indian Kashmir into a terrorist organization with regional and global ambitions and reach. In the
U.S.’s focus on homeland security and al Qaeda it has failed to take into full account of the presence of other organizations capable of surpassing or replacing al Qaeda as a terrorist threat worldwide. LeT is probably the leading candidate for such a role. LeT is the largest militant network in Pakistan. It exceeds al Qaeda in its capacity for recruiting and fundraising across the Islamic world. Unlike al Qaeda,LeT has strong societal roots, and enjoys the protection of the institutions of a state.LeT is determined to use violent means to inflict damage on American and Western interests internationally. Its leaders seek the creation of a purer Islamic state whose beliefs closely resemble Wahabism, a Sunni branch of Islam that subscribes to a literal interpretation of the Koran. But despite its transnational views that envision the reemergence of a caliphate across the Islamic world, the organization champions militant Pakistani nationalism and thrives on its association with domestic charitable activities.LeT As a Domestic Organization LeT was originally the offspring of Markaz-al-Dawa-wal-Irshad (MDI), a service organization founded at Muridke near Lahore in the early 1980s by a Palestinian, Abduallah Azzam, who was for a time an ideological mentor of Osama bin Laden. This parent organization
created a militant wing, LeT, in 1990. LeT was principally designed to provide Pakistan’s military with a proxy force of recruited fighters to augment the Islamic insurgency in Indian Kashmir. But by the late 1990s, LeT was also engaged in training Islamic militants in Pakistan and Afghanistan coming from countries ranging from Egypt to the Philippines. In 2001, MDI became Jamaat-ud-Dawa and the following 2 year, after LeT was officially banned by the Pakistan government, it supposedly dissolved, leaving only the newly named charitable organization.LeT’s cover organization directs a wide network of social services and institutions, including madressahs, secondary schools, and a major medical mission. Its heavily guarded headquarters occupy a 200-acre site at Muridki on land given by the government for a religious educational center, a hospital, and residential complex.Whether as Jamaat-ud-Dawa or LeT, the organization is especially effective in rural areas where it does much of its recruiting and its collection boxes are widely ound. LeT is especially successful in recruiting members from Tabliqi Jammat, a popular Islamic moral rearmament movement.LeT receives its main funding from multiple sources. It raises money from mosque collections, expatriate Pakistanis in the Gulf and Britain, Islamic NGOs, and Pakistani and Kashmiri businessmen. Like other extremist and militant organizations, money from drugs and smuggling also undoubtedly enter its coffers. There are suspicions that LeT receives financial assistance from Pakistan military’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI).Until 2002, LeT had the full backing of the Pakistan military for its operations in Kashmir. When the Pakistan government curtailed assistance to Pakistani insurgents after a US-brokered ceasefire that year, the organization, with the knowledge of the ISI, shifted most of its training camps and militant operations to the western border with Afghanistan. Despite the government official ban of LeT, Pakistan’s ISI continued to consider the organization as an asset. The ISI is believed to continue to share intelligence and provide protection to LeT.It is a measure of the impunity with which LeT is allowed to operate in Pakistan that the authorities have been unwilling to contain LeT chief Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, who attracts thousands across the country with his fiery sermons. His inflammatory remarks would be expected to land him among the hundreds of disappeared political activists in the country. Although he has been periodically arrested, his house detentions have been cosmetic.LeT has been allowed to gain notoriety and kudos for its relief activities in Pakistan. Its members worked alongside the U.S. military in the 2005 earthquake in Azad Kashmir, and the organization was visibly present in camps to care for displaced residents of Swat during the Pakistan’s army ‘s campaign against Pakistani Taliban militants.3 Although the U.S. provided the largest assistance package to the refugee camps, the Pakistan government denied U.S. aid workers the same opportunity to have a presence and identify the American contribution.In reciprocation for government policies, the LeT has refrained from involvement in attacks against the Pakistani army and against Pakistani civilians. The Tehriq-e-Taliban (TTP), Pakistan’s principal insurgent group, has accused the LeT of being too soft on the state of Pakistan, and other extremist groups are also skeptical of its strong linkages with ISI. At the same time, LeT’s relations with the Pakistan government are under strain. The LeT has been displeased with the constraints placed on its jihadi operations as a result of Indian and international pressures. Some of the recent spectacular terrorists operations in India and Afghanistan may have been planned and executed without the approval of the ISI. The Islamabad government’s cooperation with India in investigating and trying those accused in the November 2008 Mumbai attacks is also unwelcome. LeT is linked increasingly with the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a sectarian terrorist organization over which Pakistan’s ISI has little control. In June 2009,plans by a major terrorist cell to target Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and a number of provincial chief ministers was reportedly disrupted in Karachi. Allegedly, the plotters included members of the LeT, al Qaeda and the TTP.The current leadership in Pakistan may recognize better than any previous one the danger that LeT and groups like it pose to the state. But the organization’s deep penetration of the country’s social fabric makes any attempts to rein it in by the beleaguered Peoples Party impossible without the military’s full commitment. Moreover,party and provincial politics add a further obstacle. The major opposition, Nawaz Sharif’s Muslim League, resists a challenge to a feared LeT that could put at risk the party’s ascendant position in the Punjab.LeT’s Ambitions and Reach
LeT’s activities beyond Pakistan’s borders are not new. For more than a decade, it was the most organized, trained, and heavily armed of the insurgent groups in Kashmir. LeT has not lost interest in Kashmir or in a jihad against India aimed at liberating oppressed” Muslims in the Hindu majority state. Let’s Hafiz Saeed calls for resistance against India’s “water aggression,” a reference to India’s construction of several dams on rivers flowing into Pakistan. The recent bakery bombing in Puna, India, has been traced to indigenous militants linked to LeT. A laptop from an alleged LeT communications specialist is said to have reveal 320 potential targets, most in India.The Pakistan army, for all of the challenges it faces from its domestic terrorists, still considers India its principal national security threat.Early last month, Pakistan's army chief, General Pervez Ashfaq Kayani,asserted that the Pakistan army was an “India-centric institution,”adding this “reality will not change in any significant way until the Kashmir issue and water disputes are resolved.” His words are not dissimilar in substance from the language used by Saeed in recent speeches.Before 9/11, LeT operated camps in Afghanistan where it gave training to thousands of militants over more than five years. Among the Pakistanis fighting along with the Taliban during the 1990s, there were many belonging to LeT. There have been contradictory reports about the LeT’s role in the ongoing fighting between Taliban and the U.S. and allied troops. LeT openly supports the cause of driving foreign forces out of Afghanistan. There is considerable evidence of logistical and technical training being offered by LeT to Afghan insurgents inside Pakistan. LeT often works abroad closely with other Pakistani extremist groups and those in Afghanistan and India. Last month’s attack on guesthouses in Kabul that was aimed at Indian nationals appears to have a LeT imprint.Members of LeT are also known to have fought in the 1990s Tajik civil war and the conflict in Bosnia. LeT is believed to have ties to militant religious groups worldwide, and claims to have its own chapters in 17 countries including the U.S. It has recruited and trained foreigners such as the would-be shoe bomber Richard Reid. More typically, as a terrorist organization, LeT creates cells of just a few
people who come together for a specific operation. While there is less evidence of joint terrorist operations with al Qaeda, Abu Zubadah, the senior al Qaeda leader implicated in the 9/11 attacks, was captured in 2002 at a LeT safehouse.Reason for U.S. Concern If our counter-insurgency fails in Afghanistan, there should be little doubt that LeT will establish a major presence alongside the Taliban. While drone attacks and Pakistan raids have apparently disrupted al Qaeda and also eliminated leaders from among Pakistan’s Taliban, LeT activities have been minimally disrupted. The U.S. may take some pleasure in seeing that the government of Pakistan and its military are increasingly willing to cooperate tracing and destroying leaders of al Qaeda and the Pakistan Taliban. There is no similar interest on Pakistan’s part to weaken LeT. And even were Pakistan to take a harder line on the LeT, the fluidity of membership among militant groups in Pakistan and their overlapping and shifting alliances makes it difficult for LeT’s activities to be tracked. There is little doubt that LeT would find common purpose with other dissident groups, as well with al Qaeda, against an Islamabad civilian government that it sees as pro-West.LeT appears to be drawing strength from a deepening hypernationalism
that has taken hold at all levels of society in Pakistan. Fed by conspiracy theories, India and the U.S. are implicated in various plots, above all, to breakup Pakistan and seize its nuclear weapons.Stepped up American military efforts in Afghanistan and perceived
threats from India over terrorist activity have increased a patriotic rhetoric that validates the need for extremist groups like LeT that have an international agenda. The case is easily made that LeT can provide an important tool for the Pakistan military’s ability to respond to Indian aggression or for helping the country to secure a sphere of influence when, as expected, American and coalition forces’ strategies will have failed in Afghanistan.LeT could become even more empowered should it by adopting a domestic agenda join hands with other extremist groups to mobilize the wide popular resentments that exist in the country because of rampant corruption and economic hardship. When the TTP insurgency was at its apogee early in 2009, concerns were raised that the largely
Pashtun tribally-based insurgency might link up with extremist forces across the country, but notably those in the southern Punjab where LeT has its strongest presence. That such a national movement failed to materialize resulted mainly from strategic miscalculations by the TTP, and a failure to develop a well-articulated program that could transcend ethnic differences to appeal to the large political underclass in Pakistani society.LeT’s organizational infrastructure, its network in the Islamic world, and its access to funds for stepping up acts of terrorism against the state of Pakistan make it attractive to many groups, including al Qaeda, that seek to step up acts of terrorism against the Pakistani state and beyond. Of particular note, LeT’s chief Hafiz Saeed is believed to have many sympathizers within the Pakistan's scientific community, especially in the nuclear and missile fields, by virtue of having spent decades indoctrinating the youth of Pakistan while a professor in one of the country’s top engineering universities. Were
Pakistan to become seriously destabilized, LeT's reputation for charity,piety and patriotism, together with its close ties to senior officers of the Pakistani military and intelligence establishment, would make it a potential vehicle to transform the Pakistani society into a Sharia state similar to that of Afghanistan in the 1990s. The U.S. would then be faced in Pakistan with the jihadi-dominated state that it has most to fear.
While U.S. attention has focused primarily on al-Qaida, and the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban, the Lashkar e-Tayyiba (LeT) and other violent, Islamist extremist groups in Pakistan have been growing in both capability and ambition. As was demonstrated in the horrific Mumbai attack of November 2008, the al-Qaida model of perpetrating highly visible, mass-casualty attacks appears to have migrated, with enormous potential consequences for the United States.With a team of 10 well-armed terrorists, a carefully coordinated plan of attack, and a team of controllers back in Pakistan in constant communication with the terrorist attack team, the LeT in three days killed 173 innocent people, wounded 308 others, and grabbed hold of the entire world’s attention. communications intercepts that have been made public by the Government of India include an attack controller boasting about the carnage in Mumbai, “This is just the trailer. The main movie is yet to come.”We need to take this threat very, very seriously. The LeT is a deadly serious group of fanatics. They are well financed, ambitious, and most disturbingly, both tolerated by, and connected to, the Pakistani military.The same Pakistani military to which we are selling advanced arms. The same Pakistani military that objected so bitterly to legislation this Congress passed to provide a massive $7.5 billion plus-up in American assistance to their country, Pakistan, because our accompanying language suggests that Pakistan’s military should be answerable to a democratically elected government.Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, which means “the army of the righteous” or “the army of the pure” was set up with help from the Pakistani military as a proxy weapon for use in Jammu and Kashmir, parts of India that Pakistan has contested since partition in 1947. After 9/11, Pakistan officially banned the LeT, but the reality is that like other Islamist terrorist groups, LeT maintains a clear public presence—and a vast recruiting network—by providing extremely useful charitable and social services to millions of impoverished people of Pakistan. Public estimates suggest LeT operates some 2,000 offices in towns and villages throughout Pakistan, as well as maintaining ties with the Pakistani military.There is, in fact, no reason to doubt that Pakistan’s military is likely paying compensation to the families of the terrorists killed in the Mumbai attacks. These are our allies in the war on terror. Operational funding for the LeT comes from charitable fund-raising amongst the general population in Pakistan, but also depends heavily on contributions by Pakistani businessmen living abroad and other wealthy individuals from the Persian Gulf. Let us note too, these states are also our allies in the war on terror.But it would be unfair and wrong to suggest that the LeT problem is strictly confined to
Pakistan and the Middle East. In fact, one of the key facilitators of the Mumbai attack was an American of Pakistani extraction. Unfortunately, the LeT enjoys a substantial global network stretching from the Philippines to the United Kingdom.There is a temptation to think that the LeT is really India’s problem; that the LeT is really just interested in the so-called “liberation” of Jammu and Kashmir. While it’s true that the primary area of operations for the LeT has historically been the Kashmir valley and the Jammu region, the LeT has also undertaken repeated and numerous mass casualty attacks throughout India and, in particular, directed at the Indian government. But the idea that this group can be appeased on the subject of Kashmir is dangerous nonsense.The LeT's true goal is not Kashmir, it is India. And the LeT is not shy about announcing that its intention is to establish an Islamic state in all of South Asia. Neither does it hide or try to play down its declaration of war against all Hindus and Jews, who they insist are “enemies of Islam.”
In the wake of the Mumbai attack, investigators uncovered in computer records and email accounts a list of 320 locations worldwide deemed by the LeT as possible targets for attack. Only 20 of the targets were locations within India.The LeT has been attacking U.S. forces in Afghanistan almost from day one and their forces are present throughout Afghanistan. The LeT has been slaughtering Indians by the score for decades. The LeT has put the world on notice that they intend to escalate the carnage and spread it world-wide.This group of savages needs to be crushed. Not in a month. Not in a year. Not when the situation stabilizes in Afghanistan. Not when things are under control in Pakistan. Now. Today and everyday going forward. We’re not doing it, and we’re not effectively leading a global effort to do it. And we’re going to regret this mistake. We’re going to regret it bitterly.
London, Mar.10 (ANI): Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari, for the first time, has admitted that his country had fathered extremists, which were seen as 'heroes' by the people of the country.
"Let us be truthful to ourselves and make a candid admission of the realities. The terrorists of today were the heroes of yesteryears until 9/11 occurred and they began to haunt us as well," Zardari told a meeting of former senior civil servants in Islamabad some days ago.
Zardari's statement clearly suggests that he is concerned over the Islamic militants who have virtually declared war against the state striking in any part of the country at their will.
During an interview with The Daily Telegraph, recently, Zardari had acknowledged that the extremist groups were once considered "strategic assets" of the country, but stressed that they do not enjoy the same support now.
"I don't think anybody in the establishment supports them any more. I think everybody has become more wise than this," he said while confirmed that the Army was now targeting those it had previously used as proxies in attacks on India.
Though Islamabad has always denied its links with banned extremist organisations such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), these Islamic terror groups have long been regarded as Pakistan's 'proxy forces'.
The LeT is believed to have been created to fight with the Afghan Mujahideen against the former Soviet-backed Najibullah regime in Kabul and to attack Indian forces in Jammu and Kashmir. (ANI)
Professor Marvin Weinbaum, Scholar-in-Residence at the Middle East Institute, who has served in several US administrations as an expert on South Asia, told Congress on Thursday that the Lashkar-e-Tayiba [ Images ], responsible for the horrific 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks [ Images ], could surpass or replace Al Qaeda [ Images ] as the number one terror network worldwide.
Weinbaum also said the outfit threatens American and Western interests, and not just India [ Images ] as originally conceived by its sponsor, the ISI.
Weinbaum, testifying before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on South Asia at a hearing titled, 'Bad Company: Lashkar-e-Tayiba and the Growing Ambition of Islamist Militancy in Pakistan,' said the LeT "has evolved from being a government-sponsored Pakistani jihadi group dedicated to an insurgency in Indian Kashmir [ Images ] into a terrorist organization with regional and global ambitions and reach."
Consequently, he faulted Washington's focus on homeland security and Al Qaeda as failing "to take into full account of the presence of other organizations capable of surpassing or replacing Al Qaeda as a terrorist threat worldwide."
Weinbaum told lawmakers that "LeT is probably the leading candidate for such a role" because it was "the largest militant network in Pakistan, and exceeds Al Qaeda in its capacity for recruiting and fundraising across the Islamic world. Unlike Al Qaeda, LeT has strong societal roots, and enjoys the protection of the institutions of a state."
He spoke of how the LeT "is determined to use violent means to inflict damage on American and Western interests internationally."
Weinbaum, one of the country's leading experts on Afghanistan, said "until 2002, LeT had the full backing of the Pakistan military for its operations in Kashmir. When the Pakistan government curtailed assistance to Pakistani insurgents after a US-brokered ceasefire that year, the organization, with the knowledge of the ISI, shifted most of its training camps and militant operations to the western border with Afghanistan."
But, he informed the lawmakers that "despite the government official ban of LeT, Pakistan's ISI continued to consider the organization as an asset," and said, "The ISI is believed to continue to share intelligence and provide protection to LeT."
Weinbaum said, "It is a measure of the impunity with which LeT is allowed to operate in Pakistan that the authorities have been unwilling to contain LeT chief Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, who attracts thousands across the country with his fiery sermons. His inflammatory remarks would be expected to land him among the hundreds of disappeated political activists in the country, but although he has been periodically arrested, his house detentions have been cosmetic."
"In reciprocation for government policies, the LeT has refrained from involvement in attacks against the Pakistani army and against Pakistani civilians," he said, and noted,
"The Tehriq-e-Taliban, Pakistan's principal insurgent group, has accused the LeT of being too soft on the state of Pakistan, and other extremist groups are also skeptical of its strong linkages with ISI."
Weinbaum said that "the current leadership in Pakistan may recognize better than any previous one the danger that LeT and groups like it pose to the state. But the organization's deep penetration of the country's social fabric makes any attempts to rein it in by the beleaguered People's Party impossible without the military's full commitment."
Laying out a laundry list of concerns for the US about the LeT, the scholar said, ""If our counter-insurgency fails in Afghanistan, there should be little doubt that LeT will establish a major presence alongside the Taliban [ Images ]."
He noted that "while drone attacks and Pakistan raids have apparently disrupted Al Qaeda and also eliminated leaders from among Pakistan's Taliban, LeT activities have been minimally disrupted."
Weinbaum also said that the LeT "appears to be drawing strength from a deepening hyper-nationalism that has taken hold at all levels of society in Pakistan. Fed by conspiracy theories, India and the US are implicated in various plots, above all, to breakup Pakistan and seize its nuclear weapons."
He also said that "the case is easily made that LeT can provide an important tool for the Pakistan military's ability to respond to Indian aggression or for helping the country to secure a sphere of influence when, as expected, American and coalition forces' strategies will have failed in Afghanistan."
Weinbaum also argued that "the LeT's organizational infrastructure, its network in the Islamic world, and its access to funds for stepping up acts of terrorism against the state of Pakistan, make it attractive to many groups, including Al Qaeda, that seek to step up acts of terrorism against the Pakistani state and beyond."
He said it should not be forgotten that Hafiz Saeed [ Images ] "is believed to have many sympathizers within the Pakistani scientific community, especially in the nuclear and missile fields, by virtue of having spent decades indoctrinating the youth of Pakistan while a professor in one of the country's top engineering universities."
Thus, Weinbaum said is couldn't be dismissed that "were Pakistan to become seriously dectabilized, LeT's reputation for charity, piety and patriotism, together with its close ties to senior officers of the Pakistani military and intelligence establishment, would make it a potential vehicle to transform the Pakistani society into a Sharia state similar to that of Afghanistan in the 1990s."
"The US would then be faced in Pakistan with the jihadi-dominated stated that it has most to fear," he added.
In an unmistakable sign of rising concern in the United States over the expansive reach of the militant outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), a Congressional hearing on Thursday emphasised the urgent need to “crush” the group.
The hearing, titled “Bad Company: Lashkar e-Tayyiba and the Growing Ambition of Islamist Militancy in Pakistan”, Chairman Gary Ackerman said that in the wake of the Mumbai attacks in 2008 computer records and email accounts investigated yielded 320 locations worldwide deemed to be possible targets of LeT attacks. Only 20 of the targets were locations in India, Mr. Ackerman added.
Highlighting the relationship between the LeT and the Pakistani military, Mr. Ackerman said the LeT was a deadly serious group of “fanatics” and the U.S. ought to take this threat “very, very seriously.”
Ms Lisa Curtis, Senior Research Fellow at The Heritage Foundation and expert witness testifying at the hearing, said, “It has been a failure of U.S. policy to not insist Pakistan shut down the LeT long ago. U.S. officials have shied away from pressuring Pakistan on the LeT in the interest of garnering Pakistani cooperation against targets the U.S. believed were more critical to immediate U.S. objectives, i.e., Al-Qaeda shortly after 9/11 and the Afghan Taliban more recently.”
However overlooking the activities of LeT in Pakistan is the equivalent of standing next to a ticking time bomb waiting for it to explode, she warned. Furthermore, given that the LeT has cooperated with Al-Qaeda and shares a similar anti-west Islamist ideology, Al-Qaeda cannot be dismantled without also shutting down the operations of the LeT, Ms Curtis said.
Mr. Ackerman pointed out that today LeT were well-financed, ambitious, and, most disturbingly, both tolerated by and connected to, the Pakistani military. This is the same Pakistani military to which we are selling advanced arms, Mr. Ackerman added. There was agreement at the Committee that “Pakistan was in a delicate dance with a Frankenstein's monster of its own making... which was now going global.”
Ashley Tellis, Senior Associate, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, concurred on LeT's deep links to the establishment in Pakistan. He said, “LeT… uses Pakistani territory as its main base of operation, and continues to be supported extensively by the Pakistani state, especially the Army and Inter-Services Intelligence. [However] it does not need constant operational support from the ISI for its effectiveness today.”
Influence beyond borders
The Chairman's report at the hearing described the LeT's substantial global network, stating that it stretched from the Philippines to the United Kingdom. His comments further emphasised that the LeT was not just India's problem and while it was historically been in the Kashmir valley and the Jammu region, it has also undertaken repeated and numerous mass casualty attacks throughout India, directed at the Indian government.
Touching upon LeT's broader global agenda Mr. Tellis said, “The organisation's close ties with Al-Qaeda in Pakistan and its support for the Afghan Taliban's military operations pose a direct threat to U.S. citizens, soldiers, and interests.”
The Chairman categorically stated, “The idea that this group can be appeased on the subject of Kashmir is dangerous nonsense.” He further added that the LeT has not been shy about announcing its intention to establish an Islamic state in all of South Asia, and has been attacking U.S. forces in Afghanistan almost from day one.”
During his testimony Mr. Tellis called for greater candidness by the U.S. saying it should stop pretending that LeT is an independent actor. “A candid recognition that the organisation receives protection and support from the Pakistani state would go a long way toward solving the problem”, Mr. Tellis said. He further exhorted the U.S. to be prepared to take action if Pakistan did not move decisively against the LeT.
In his final remarks Mr. Ackerman made a strong statement calling for action, saying, “This group of savages needs to be crushed. Not in a month. Not in a year. Not when the situation stabilises in Afghanistan. Not when things are under control in Pakistan. Now.”
If the U.S. did not effectively lead a global effort to do so, Mr. Ackerman added, they would regret it bitterly.
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